1578-1977; bulk: 1817-1910

Guide to the Collection

Collection Summary


This collection consists of correspondence and other personal papers of the Winthrop family, primarily dating from the 19th century.

Biographical Sketches

John Winthrop (1588-1649) was born in Edwardstown, England, to Adam Winthrop (1548-1623) and Anne Browne Winthrop (d. 1629). In 1630, Winthrop founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony and served as governor of the colony from 1630 to 1634, 1637 to 1640, 1642 to 1644, and 1646 to 1649. He married four times: in 1605 to Mary Forth (1584-1615); in 1615 to Thomasine Clopton, who died a year later; in 1618 to Margaret Tyndal (1591-1647); and in 1647 to Martha Rainsborow Coytmore.

Adam Winthrop (1676-1743) was born in Bristol, England, to Adam Winthrop (1647-1700) and Mary Luttrell Winthrop. He married Ann Wainwright (d. 1755) in 1700. Ranked as a colonel in the Boston Militia, Winthrop was elected to the Massachusetts General Court in 1714, 1715, and 1716.

John Winthrop, F.R.S. (1681-1747) was born in Boston, Mass. to Wait Still Winthrop (1642-1717) and Mary Browne Winthrop (d. 1690). He married Ann Dudley (1684-1776). After several years in Massachusetts and Connecticut, where he became embroiled in legal conflicts, he took up residence in London and was promptly elected to the Royal Society.

James Winthrop (1752-1821) was born in Cambridge, Mass. to Professor John Winthrop (1714-1779) and his first wife Rebecca Townsend Winthrop (1726-1790). After graduating from Harvard College in 1769, James Winthrop fought in the Revolutionary War and was wounded at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He worked for several years as librarian of Harvard but never succeeded his father as Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy. Winthrop was a founding member of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Francis Bayard Winthrop (1754-1817) was born in New London, Conn. to John Still Winthrop (1720-1776) and Jane Borland Winthrop (d. 1760). A successful businessman based in New York, Winthrop prospered during the Revolutionary War. He married (1st) Elsie Marston and (2nd) Phebe Taylor (1764-1841).

William Henry Winthrop (1791-1860) was born in New York City to Francis Bayard Winthrop (1754-1817) and his second wife Phebe Taylor Winthrop (1764-1841). A graduate of Yale University, Henry Winthrop married his first cousin, Margaret Ann Parkin (d. 1863), in 1817. He ran a farm on Fisher's Island, off the coast of Connecticut, for most of his life, but spent his last years in New London, Conn.

Thomas Charles Winthrop (1797-1873) was born in New York City to Francis Bayard Winthrop (1754-1817) and Phebe Taylor Winthrop (1764-1841). He married Georgiana Maria Kane, daughter of John Kane, a successful merchant.

Charles Francis Winthrop (1827-1898) was born in New York to Thomas Charles Winthrop (1797-1873) and Georgiana Maria Kane Winthrop. Charles Francis (referred to as Frank in his letters) attended Yale University before becoming a lawyer in New York. He married Gertrude C. Johnson, daughter of Lawrence Waterbury.

Robert Winthrop (1833-1892) was born in New York City to Thomas Charles Winthrop (1797-1873) and Georgiana Maria Kane Winthrop. A prominent banker in New York, he founded the banking house of Robert Winthrop & Company. He married Kate Wilson Taylor, daughter of Moses Taylor.

Grenville Winthrop (1837-1869) was born in New York City to Thomas Charles Winthrop (1797-1873) and Georgiana Maria Kane Winthrop. Grenville married Elizabeth Van Schaick Oddie. As an investment broker, Grenville established the firm of Grenville Winthrop & Co. in New York.

Frederic Winthrop (1839-1865) was born in New York City to Thomas Charles Winthrop (1797-1873) and Georgiana Maria Kane Winthrop. Frederic Winthrop served in the Union army during the Civil War, rising to the rank of brevet brigadier general. After his death at the Battle of Five Forks in Virginia on 1 April 1865, he was awarded the rank of brevet major general. Frederic fought in the battles of Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, as well as the Battle of Five Forks. He was purportedly the last Union general to die on the field of battle.

Eugene Winthrop (1844-1893) was born to Thomas Charles Winthrop (1797-1873) and Georgiana Maria Kane Winthrop. A member of the banking firm of Drexel, Harjes and Company, Eugene lived in Paris, France, for most of his career.

Robert Charles Winthrop (1809-1894) was born to Thomas Lindall Winthrop (1760-1841) and Elizabeth Bowdoin Temple Winthrop (1760-1825). A prominent member of Boston society, Robert C. Winthrop served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1834 to 1840. He then entered national politics and was elected to Congress in 1840, serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1847 to 1849. After leaving politics, Winthrop became president of the Massachusetts Historical Society. He married (1st) in 1832 Eliza Cabot Blanchard (1809-1842) and (2nd) in 1849 Laura Derby Welles (1811-1861).

Robert Charles Winthrop, Jr. (1834-1905) was born in Boston, Mass. to Robert C. Winthrop (1809-1894) and Eliza Cabot Blanchard Winthrop (1809-1842). Robert C. Winthrop, Jr. attended Phillips Academy in Andover and Harvard University, where he obtained his law degree. He married (1st) Frances Pickering Adams (1836-1860) and spent many years abroad in Europe. Winthrop married (2nd) in 1869 Elizabeth Mason (b. 1844), with whom he eventually settled in Massachusetts, where he became an active member of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Robert Dudley Winthrop (1861-1912) was born in New York City to Robert Winthrop (1833-1892) and Kate Wilson Taylor Winthrop. After graduating from Harvard University, Robert Dudley Winthrop (referred to as Dudley in his letters) was admitted to his father's financial firm, Robert Winthrop & Company. He also served as an aide-de-camp with the rank of captain in the war with Spain.

Frederic Bayard Winthrop (1868-1932) was born in New York City to Robert Winthrop (1833-1892) and Kate Wilson Taylor Winthrop. A graduate of Harvard University, where he also received his law degree, Frederic worked with his brother Dudley at his father's banking firm, Robert Winthrop & Company. Frederic also served as a captain of the Red Cross in World War I. Later in his life, he resided in Massachusetts, where he was an active member of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Frederic Winthrop married (1st) Dorothy Amory (1878-1907) and (2nd) Sarah Barroll Thayer.


Mayo, Lawrence Shaw. The Winthrop Family in America. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1948.

Collection Description

This collection of Winthrop family papers consists primarily of personal papers of the 19th-century descendants of Francis Bayard Winthrop (1754-1817). However, the collection also contains several documents from earlier family members, including John Winthrop (1588-1649), the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The earliest item is a 1578 fragment signed by "A Wintropp." Included are a few letters and papers of John Winthrop; a letter written by his wife Margaret; two legal bills signed by his grandson Adam (1676-1743); and a brief diary of John Winthrop (1681-1747), 22 Apr.-3 May 1728, describing a journey from London to Groton, England, and enclosing a sketch of the Winthrop ancestral manor house and grounds there.

The collection contains one 1805 item concerning lands in the Taylor family. Francis Bayard Winthrop papers begin in 1817 and include his will and estate inventory, 1818. His widow Phebe Taylor Winthrop's accounts with her son William H. Winthrop date from 1820-1826 and 1838. Also included is a will and probate document for a Mary T. Smith, 1834, as well as miscellaneous papers of Phebe Winthrop and Thomas Charles Winthrop, among them New York State real estate tax bills for 1839-1843 and 1846.

Papers after 1853 include scattered letters from Robert C. Winthrop, Sr; undated letters from Georgiana Winthrop to her son Charles Francis Winthrop, written in the 1850s and 1860s; and miscellaneous 1850s family letters to Charles Francis Winthrop.

Among the Civil War papers in this collection are letters written by Frederic Winthrop to his family from various locations. He served in every campaign of the Army of the Potomac from the First Battle of Bull Run to the Battle of Five Forks, and his letters include descriptions of the battles of Fair Oaks and Spotsylvania, the North Anna River Campaign, the Totopotomoy Creek Campaign, the Cold Harbor Campaign, the Petersburg Campaign, and Sherman's March to the Sea. Also included is a description of the Battle of Ball's Bluff in a letter written by a Daniel Schambert, 1 Nov. 1861 (in French, with English translation). Frederic Winthrop served in the Army of the Potomac as a captain of the 12th Regiment of U.S. Infantry. The collection contains documents related to his promotion to colonel and ultimately breveted brigadier general of the Fifth Regiment of New York Volunteers. He was killed at the Battle of Five Forks (Appomattox Campaign) in April 1865 and posthumously awarded a brevet major general. Along with official papers from the War Department are letters concerning his brevet from his cousin Robert C. Winthrop (1809-1894), an influential member of Congress; General Ayres; and Major General Meade, commanding officer of the Army of the Potomac; as well as a transcript of a recommendation from Major General Sheridan. Additional papers consist of poetry, newspaper clippings, and official correspondence on his death.

Letters written to family members by Eugene Winthrop in Paris, 1868-1874, describe his social life there and the effects of the Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871. Included are items concerning the 1869 death of Grenville Winthrop and the 1873 death of Thomas Charles Winthrop.

From the 1880s to 1910, the collection consists mostly of correspondence between Winthrop family members and other distant relatives with Charles Francis Winthrop, Robert Dudley Winthrop, and Frederic Winthrop, much of it on genealogical matters, with some items concerning the deaths of Robert Winthrop in 1892 and Eugene Winthrop in 1893. Beginning in 1882, the collection contains scattered letters written by Robert C. Winthrop, Jr., and papers after 1925 consist of newspaper clippings and miscellaneous items related to family matters. The last item in the collection is a copy of a speech by Stanley Bragg on the history of Groton Village, 1977. Genealogical notes cover both the Winthrop and Taylor families.

Oversize materials include an inventory of the estate of James Winthrop (1752-1821).

Acquisition Information

Gift of Robert Winthrop, March 1986.

Box List to the Collection

Box 1
Undated manuscripts
Box 1
Box 2
Box 2
Undated genealogical notes
Box OS
Oversize materials

Preferred Citation

Winthrop family papers II, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in ABIGAIL, the online catalog of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Researchers desiring materials about related persons, organizations, or subjects should search the catalog using these headings.


Schambert, Daniel.
Smith, Mary T.
Taylor family--Genealogy.
Winthrop, Charles Francis, 1827-1898.
Winthrop, Eugene, 1844-1893.
Winthrop family--Genealogy.
Winthrop, Francis Bayard, 1754-1817.
Winthrop, Frederic, 1839-1865.
Winthrop, Grenville, 1837-1869.
Winthrop, James, 1752-1821.
Winthrop, John, 1588-1649.
Winthrop, John, 1681-1747.
Winthrop, Margaret Tyndal, 1591-1647.
Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1809-1894.
Winthrop, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1834-1905.
Winthrop, Robert Dudley, 1861-1912.
Winthrop, Thomas Charles, 1797-1873.


United States. Army. Infantry Regiment, 12th (1861-1865).
United States. Army. New York Infantry Regiment, 5th (1861-1863).


Ball's Bluff, Battle of, Va., 1861.
Fair Oaks, Battle of, Va., 1862.
Family history--1800-1849.
Family history--1850-1899.
Franco-Prussian War, 1870-1871.
Inventories of decedents' estates.
Paris (France)--Social life and customs.
Sherman's March to the Sea.
Spotsylvania Court House, Battle of, Va., 1864.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Campaigns.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Personal narratives.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories--New York Infantry, 5th Volunteers.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Regimental histories--United States Infantry, 12th Volunteers.

Materials Removed from the Collection

Photographs from this collection have been removed to the Frederic Winthrop cartes de visite (Photo. Coll. 500.185).

The following book has been removed and cataloged separately:

Warren, G. K. An Account of the Operations of the Fifth Army Corps, Commanded by Maj.-Gen. G. K. Warren, at the Battle of Five Forks, April 1, 1865, and the Battles and Movements Preliminary To It. New York: D. Van Nostrand, 1866.